Q: My business revenue was down from prior years. What can I do to increase my company’s sales this year?
A: If you could do just one thing to help your prospective customers and your business, what would that be?
The answer to this question can only come from you. However, let me add a few thoughts to help you think deeply about your answer.
Consider giving more of what you have away. One of the most potent laws of influence is the law of reciprocity. The law is that people want to repay, in kind, what another person has given to them. Reciprocity flows from the law of love that is “the gift of giving” without the “hope of reward or pay,” or serving others.
The law of reciprocity is not what can best be described as "transactional reciprocity." Wayne Baker, a University of Michigan professor and author of the book ‘Achieving Success Through Social Capital’ (Jossey-Bass), says that, "Many people conceive of their business dealings as spot market exchanges--value given for value received, period. Nothing more, nothing less. This tit-for-tat mode of operation can produce results, but it doesn't invoke the power of reciprocity and so fails to yield extraordinary success."
Baker explains, "The lesson is that we cannot pursue the power of reciprocity. When we try to invoke reciprocity directly, we lose sight of the reason for it: helping others. Paradoxically, it is in helping others without expecting reciprocity in return that we invoke the power of reciprocity. The path to reciprocity is indirect: reciprocity ensues from the social capital built by making contributions to others. And so those who help you may not be those you help. The help you receive may come from distant corners of your network."
Here are some ways to give more away in your business operations. If you are in a product business, you might consider giving out samples or providing test rides/demonstrations of what you sell to allow the person to get a feel for the product’s value. If you are in the services business, consider providing a free sampling of your work or share a valuable insight (based upon your area of expertise) that helps the prospective client get to where they want to be. Even if the person who receives your gift never buys from you, she may repay your kindness by referring other people to you who want what you are selling.
I have found that people seldom call me when they want some knowledge I possess. But if they see me at a meeting or networking event, they will ask their question. By giving them the answer they seek, I have put the law of reciprocity into play. That is why it is important for service providers to attend networking events that their prospective customers normally attend.
If you hate networking, stop thinking about it as networking and just go there to share knowledge. By sharing knowledge with others, you earn trust, build your reputation and give or obtain resources. Information is energy but useless unless it flows around and combines with other knowledge in the minds of those you work and play with. So be sure knowledge sharing collaboration is a potent weapon of influence in your everyday activities.
Here are two self-coaching tips to exercise the law of reciprocity in your conversations:
- Remind yourself that reciprocity is not about what you need but what the other person needs and how you can give that to them.
- Frequently ask this question of others, “How can I be of help?”
Learn to speak from the heart by showing appreciation of the people you serve. Encourage others you work with to care by allowing them to observe your acts of caring. All businesses are ultimately people serving people and our life’s work should come from the heart. Long after your products or services have been delivered, the feelings and knowledge shared during the business relationship remain.
John Agno: Can't Get Enough Leadership (ebook at $2.99)
John G. Agno: Can't Get Enough Leadership: Self Coaching Secrets (Paperback Edition at $28.99)